Jump to content
Thevshi

Shop Till You Drop

Recommended Posts

Midtown, Freedom City, New Jersey

Saturday, September 1, 2018

10:05 AM

 

The Labor Day weekend had begun, and for malls such as Millennium Mall, that meant sales designed for those going back to school.  That was why Megan Howell-Harrow was at the shopping center this morning, although not all that long ago she would hardly have needed an excuse to be at the mall.  The last few years had seen her out getting school clothes for her son Lawrence as he began a new year at school, though this year he had really pushed to just stay home, as shopping was far from his favorite pastime. 

 

But that was hardly the biggest change this year from previous.  Toward the beginning of the summer, Megan had been contacted by Callie Summers about a new student coming to Claremont that had been removed from her family in Alabama due to criminal activity by some of her family members and who needed a foster home while attending Claremont.  Megan had never really thought about being a foster parent before, but after reading over the girl's file she realized there was likely a lot she could do to help the teenager find herself a new path as she started over at Claremont.  So, she and Robert talked things over with Lawrence and the decision was made to bring Louise "Lulu" Beaumont into their home.

 

Megan turned back to look up behind her on the escalator from the parking garage at the redheaded sixteen year older standing behind her.  Lulu had only just arrived in Freedom City the day before, so Megan figured that this outing would give her and the teen a bit of time to get to know one another away from Robert and Lawrence.  "So Lulu, do you have any particular places you want to look at first for clothes?"  She asked with a warm smile.

Share this post


Link to post

It was all still a bit too much for Lulu; growing up in a small town in southeastern Alabama, the largest city she'd ever been to was Atlanta when she visited Aunt Lorreta, and that had only been a handful of times. Freedom City dwarfed every other town she'd ever been to by a factor of wow! In fact, the house she was now staying at in North Bay was bigger than the entirety of Houston County High School! She kept thinking there'd been sort of mistake, or that she'd wandered onto the set of The Princess Diaries in a weird dream. There was no way this was actually her life.

 

Slowly approaching the glamorous Mrs. Howell-Harrow, the young redhead clutched her left arm with her right hand, eyes somewhat downcast. She was wearing a pair of pink All-Stars, black jeans, and a pink denim jacket. "Well ma'am, ah mean ah'd love to shop at any one of these fine stores, but ah honestly don't think ah can afford to! Ah mean, ah just don't have that kinda money. Maybe there's an outlet mall we can go to somewheres?"

Edited by Heritage

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan could not help but give Lulu a bit of a sympathetic look.  She understood that the teen was feeling overwhelmed by things.  Freedom City was a major metropolis, a far, far cry from the small town Lulu had grown up in.  She expected that her and Robert's lifestyle was not helping in making things more comfortable for the teenager to settle in.  Hopefully that would fade some with time, but right now there was a bit more immediate of a concern, making sure Lulu was ready for the start of the Claremont term in a few days.

 

"Well, there are certainly some factory stores out in the suburbs, but don’t worry about that right now."  Megan replied with a slightly dismissive waive of her hand as she turned and started away from the escalators.  "We have happily chosen bring you into our home, which includes taking on responsibility for you.  I would hardly be doing that to my best if I did not make sure you were ready for the start of the school year."

"Now, if you were like I was at sixteen, you might have reached your full height, but that is still no reason to not take an opportunity for some additions to your wardrobe."  Megan walked a short distance to a mall directory, stopping in front of the map and looking back to Lulu.  "So, is there a place that you have ever thought about wanting to go to look for clothes, but were never able to?"

Share this post


Link to post

The young girl hesitated, then scrunched up her face. "Uh, well ah suppose...the Gap? Or Calvin Klein, ah guess." She tugged at the hem of her jacket. "Guess you can see ah like mah denim." Lulu chuckled self-conciously, then stepped a bit closer to Megan and lowered her voice. "Is there...is there somewheres we can talk, ma'am? Ah just feel..." She nervously fluttered a hand in front of her stomach. "Ah just...ah just need a little sit down, is all."

 

Lulu wasn't having a full-on panic attack (she was familiar with those), but she did feel a sudden need to get her bearings.

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan nodded when Lulu suggested a couple of stores and had just started to scan for them on the map when the teen came closer and asked about finding someplace to talk and wanting to sit down.  Glancing back at Lulu, Megan could see she was appearing a bit unsettled.

 

"Of course dear."  Megan replied with a sympathetic smile.  A quick of the map reveled a few options and Megan chose the closets, leading Lulu over off away from the main rows of stores and down one of the smaller, side passages of the mall.  Off in that wing were several food places, several of which had not yet opened for lunch, so the area was much less crowded that the main parts of the mall near the shops.  There were also lots of tables set out and Megan led Lulu over toward one away from any other people.

 

Taking a seat, Megan looked over at the teenager, concern evident on her face.  "I understand things are probably overwhelming for you.  So many things have happened over the last few months.  I am always here to talk when you feel the need."

Share this post


Link to post

Lulu nodded with her hands folded primly in her lap. She thought long and hard about what she wanted to say, took a deep breath and began.

 

"Ma'am, ah want you to know that ah really appreciate-" She gestured around to take in the mall. "All this, ah really do, but...somehow it feels like...like ah dont deserve any of this. Does that make any sense? Like ah feel like ah should be being punished, but instead, ah'm being rewarded."

 

She shook her head firmly, sending ripples through her long red hair.

 

"What my daddy did, what we all did, was wrong. And now somehow, ah get to live this amazing new life, with all these fancy things..." Lulu looked up at Megan with tears in her eyes. "Is that right? Is that fair?"

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan sat patiently as Lulu worked out what she wanted to say (a harder feat than one might realize for the blonde).  When Lulu finally began to talk, Megan quickly processed what the teenager had to say.  Some of it was things Megan had been thinking about over the last few months after she had first started talking with Callie about taking Lulu in.  Still, it was different now that Lulu was sitting in front of her, expressing them herself, with the emotion one would expect.

 

Reaching out with one hand, Megan put it over one of Lulu’s on the table between them.  "Lulu, what you did not deserve was to have those you trusted and relied upon make or mislead you into using your powers to hurt others and benefit them.  Perhaps you could have done something to stop it earlier, perhaps not.  But eventually you did put a stop to things, or at least to having your powers misused."

 

"Now, whether or not you are getting 'rewarded,' I believe the amazing new life you are being given is the one you should have had to begin with, having people that care about you and want to support you in finding your way in life and being the good person you are.  The money and other things that may come with this new life are just trappings, they are nice and make some things easier, but are not what is truly important."

 

"Just the fact that you are so upset about whether this is deserved and fair tells me that you do in fact deserve this new start.  If you just casually accepted all this and had no regrets over how your powers had been used, then I might have some concerns."

Share this post


Link to post

The teenaged telepath nodded as she listened to Megan's words, and in the end she sat up a little straighter as she carefully dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. "Ah...ah suppose your right. Ah appreciate your kind words. It's just..." She rolled her eyes and shrugged. "A lot, sometimes. Ah'll be fine."

 

Then Lulu looked around the mall a bit. "Ah'm going to need some jackets, aren't ah? And a warm coat? Winters aren't much to write home about back in Alabama, but ah hear up here they get downright nasty." Her mood definitely seemed to be improving at the thought of some quality retail therapy.

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan gave Lulu another reassuring smile.  "Being a teenager is often tough.  Being a teenager with powers is generally even tougher.  But you will have plenty of resources to help you if you needed it.  If I can't help you or the school is unable to for some reason, between Headmistress Summers and I, we can find someone who can."

 

As the teenager turned her attention to what she might be needing in terms of clothes while in Freedom City, Megan's smile widened.  "Some good sweaters are often a good choice as well."  She began, getting up from the table.  "But you will certainly want some jackets.  But there is still a bit of time before the cold will truly set in.  So we can likely wait to around Thanksgiving to look for warm coats and heavier sweaters.  Most stores will not have a very good selection for those right now anyway."

 

As the two started back toward the central part of the mall, Megan glanced over toward Lulu.  "So, I will admit that denim has never been a significant part of my wardrobe.  But, I am sure we will be able to find you some good selections to choose from."

Share this post


Link to post

Lulu chuckled as she considered her ensemble. "Ah, well ma'am, everybody wears jeans back home; jeans, T-shirts and blouses, or a nice sundress when you go to church. Ah mean, ah do have a few sweaters, but you just don't need 'em when our winters are so mild, know what ah mean?. Anytime there's any snow, they just close all the roads and everybody panics."

 

The redhead didn't say anything for a while, just taking in all the various sights, sounds and smells of the mall as she walked beside her host, but then something Megan said earlier struck her.

 

"Uh, ma'am, can ah ask you a question? Will ah be spending the holidays up here in Freedom? It's just-" She cleared her throat and looked down at her All-Stars. "I've always done the holidays with family, is all."

Edited by Heritage

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan smiled as Lulu talked about her home and what people generally wore, while guide the pair through the mall crowd.  She figured the Gap seemed a good starting place and was headed in that direction.  "Well, there would be weeks where nothing would happen here if we let a little snow stop everything."  She replied with a grin.  "So, I expect there will be a couple of months in which you will truly learn to appreciate heavier sweaters."

 

But then at teenager's question about the holidays the older woman's smile faded slightly as she gave a small sigh.  "I am afraid the answer is somewhat complicated Lulu, and not something I can definitively answer right now, one way or another."  Megan looked over at Lulu.  "I hope you understand that your case workers and the judge down in Alabama do not want you having contact with your father or some other members of your immediate family.  They do not necessarily want to cut you off from your extended family, but there will need to be guarantees that if you do go back to visit members of your extended family, there will not be contact with ones that contact is supposed to be cut off from."

 

"I think if things go well over the next couple of months at Claremont, you will be in a good position to seek to have some time to visit with your extended family, and we will certainly be willing to help advocate for that as well.  If for some reason things do not work out for you this year, we would absolutely love to have you spend the holidays with us."

Share this post


Link to post

The Alabama teen nodded; that was about what she expected. "Well, ah expect ah wouldn't be very welcome back in Columbia rignt now anyway. My brother Bobby is the main one ah miss right now. But we've got good family in Mobile and Tallahassee, too." 

 

Once they made it to the Gap, Lulu's mood improved noticeably as she excitedly oohed and aahed over each new piece of clothing they looked at; based on Megan's advice, she broadened her color palate with seasonal outfits that paired well with her pale skin and red hair, and her dark brown eyes sparkled as she tried them on. Based on her conversation, it became clear that while Lulu herself was quite bright, her schooling had been truly subpar, and Megan feared she might struggle with some subjects at Claremont. However, she was curious and eager to learn, and displayed an empathy and insight well beyond her sixteen years, attributes that would no doubt aid in her adjustment to her new life.

 

"So your husband Robert is from England, right? Have you ever visited his family?" This question was asked as they sipped on drinks from Starbucks, seated at a small table near one of the mall's glass elevators, surrounded by bags from the Gap.

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

As the pair began clothes shopping, Megan was glad to see Lulu's mood improve.  Megan was happy to offer advice, ensuring she was not making suggestions that would be drastic changes to Lulu's style, at least not unless Lulu indicated she was willing to deviate from her preferred styles. 

 

As the talked, Megan noted the signs that Lulu's past education had been lacking in some respects.  The older woman did not bring up the issue now, not wanting distract from the present.  But she made a mental note to discuss it with Callie and locate some potential tutors for Lulu to help get her caught up and help ensure her success going forward.  She would wait a bit to discuss the potential need for tutors with Lulu and perhaps give her the option of just starting to work with tutors or wait to see how she felt after a week or so of classes.  She certainly did not want to start appearing to be judgmental about the teenager and would rather present the idea as a positive, rather than a negative.

 

Before they left the Gap, Megan had Lulu help her look at a few possibilities for Lawrence and then they had made their way out to Starbucks for some coffee and a small break before hitting some more stores.  At Lulu's question, Megan nodded as she took a sip from her iced drink.  "Oh yes, we tend to go back to England a couple of times a year to visit.  Robert typically travels back at least once a month.  He has a number of responsibilities he needs to attend to relating to the title he took on when his father passed a few years ago."

Share this post


Link to post

"Oh that's right, ah forgot; you two really are like royalty." Lulu got along fine with Robert; she was brought up to be respectful to her elders, and was therefore scrupulously polite. Lord Harrow had that sort of English sense of humor: understated, slightly dry and sarcastic, but never mean-spirited, like she imagined it would be living with Hugh Grant or Colin Firth.

 

Their son, Lawrence, however, was another matter entirely; he was very smart and grown up for his age, but there was something else about him that unnerved her, like a cloud that surrounded him. She couldn't put her finger on it, and it bothered her because by all accounts he really was a sweet little boy. So she was always a bit awkward around him, which he totally picked up on, because he was way smarter than her; by some unspoken agreement, they were perfectly civil with each other, but each chose to avoid the other as much as possible, which sadly was probably for the best.

 

"So, can we hit Calvin Klein? And ah'd like to get some new shoes. Maybe even some boots!"

Edited by Heritage

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan gave a bit of a dismissive smile at Lulu’s comment about "royalty."  "Well, nobility really.  But I just married into it.  But yes, it does create some obligations for Robert.  Plus, during the right time of year, the English countryside can be very lovely.  We will get you over there with us sometime."  She added with a smile.

 

As Lulu asked about going to another store, Megan gave a wide grin.  "Only one more store?  If you are sure."  Standing up, she picked up her drink and began helping Lulu gather the various bag.  "But new shoes are always good, and it never hurts to have a pair of boots on hand.  I should be able to find a few things for Lawrence there as well."

Share this post


Link to post

The young redhead shrugged. "Ah mean, ah don't need that many clothes; hell, ah've been doing laundry since ah was what, six or seven? Momma always needed a hand around the house, because them boys sure wasn't goin' to do their own washin'! They was too busy drinkin' beers on the sofa and playing GTA 'til five in the mornin'..."

 

A strong hint of bitterness crept into Lulu's voice, but then she took a deep breath and smiled at Megan. "Sorry, ma'am! Mah case worker said it's best not to dwell on the past. 'Focus on the future,' she says, 'because that's all you can control.'" She nodded firmly. "So that's what ah'm fixin' to do." Then she drained the last of her carmel frappuccino with a loud slurp.

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan gave a small smile as Lulu described having to deal with the laundry of all her bothers.  "I have an older brother, and sister as well, but my mother made sure we were each responsible for our own laundry.  So you do not have to fear about having to do any but your own."

 

The older woman's smile widened as Lulu mentioned focusing on the future instead of dwelling on the past, although there was the slightest hint of melancholy in her expression that passed quickly.  "That is certainly the right spirit."  Megan replied as she started off back towards the center of the mall and the hustle and bustle of the crowds. 

Share this post


Link to post

As they finished up their drinks and headed back into the fray, Lulu pulled out her phone and opened the browser. "Ah bookmarked a few booties that looked nice; a few Calvins, and some Michael Kors. Ah think a nice, low stacked heel is probably best, since ah'll probably need all the help ah can get in the snow!" 

 

At Calvin Klein, she was back to being an excited kid in a candy store again, as she and Megan continued to develop her personal style through carefully considered purchases. While they were waiting for a salesperson to find another shoe in her size in back, the young telepath grew more thoughtful.

 

"Can I ask you a question, ma'am? How old were you when you-" She looked over her shoulder, then spread her fingers wide as she made a somewhat stricken expression. She hoped it conveyed her intended meaning.

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

"Doing some research beforehand is always a good idea."  Megan replied with a nod.  "But do not let yourself get dead set on something you have just seen online.  When you actually try them on, there are plenty of things that could turn out to be very different than you expected.  And besides, you never know when you will just fall in love another pair of shoes you somehow missed online next to the ones you did look at."

 

Soon the pair were at the Calvin Klein store and Megan once again provided some helpful suggestions without trying to override Lulu's personal style choices.  When the sales person had left the two for another trip to the back, Lulu asked her question, which caused Megan's expression to become a bit more serious.

 

"Well, I was a little younger than you, though mine did not develop naturally."  The older woman replied quietly.  "It was not long before I was going out in costume, but I started with pretty small things.  Purse snatchers, cats in trees, that sort of stuff.  I turned down a couple of invitations to Claremont, in large part because I had not told my parents about my abilities, let alone my costumed crime fighting.  I had some other reasons as well, but they were mostly selfish ones.  I actually kept my secret from my parents until after I was done with college.  I am pretty fortunate that that keeping that secret for so long did not ruin my relationship with them.  It certainly caused me plenty of other relationship problems and even drove Robert and I apart for a time."

 

She gave Lulu a small smile.  "But you don't have that problem with us, and I hope you will feel comfortable coming to either Robert or I if you need to.  I think just having a network of peers at your school who are in similar situations will be very helpful as well.  There were times when I certainly could have used that."

Share this post


Link to post

Lulu furrowed her brow thoughtfully as she idly lifted her two stocking feet up into the air; when she spoke, she sounded miles away. "My powers first showed up when ah was ten years old. At first, started seein' things, like little flashes, kind of like deja vu? Like ah'd see somethin' right before it happened. Like Momma was about to drop somethin', and ah'd yell 'no', and then she'd catch it right before it fell over."

 

"And then ah started to hear things, especially at night when ah was layin' in bed. Ah didn't know it at the time, but ah was startin' to hear people's thoughts! So ah complained to my parents, and said 'Can y'all stop talkin' so loud? Ah can't sleep!' And they just laughed and thought it was funny."

 

And then her voice lowered and cracked a bit, as old painfully memories welled up inside her. She looked very small in her stocking feet. "And then it started to happen at school; ah was yellin' and coverin' my ears, beggin' everybody to stop screamin'. Ah got sent to the school nurse, and then the principal's office. And all the other kids started to make fun of me, sayin' ah was crazy or high on drugs. So they pulled me out of school."

 

"And then one day my daddy figured it out; he remebered all them stories that'd been goin' 'round his family all them years. He said, 'My God, that girl's got the Sight! Hot damn!' And then he started laughin' and dancin' 'round, actin' like a fool. Because he'd figured it out; he found the goose that laid the golden egg!  And it was all downhill from there..."

 

She stopped speaking altogether, her eyes staring off into space.

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

Megan listened quietly as Lulu spoke about the emergence of her powers, keeping an eye out to ensure the store clerk was not coming back.  When Lulu finished, the older woman leaned forward and gently placed one hand over one of Lulu's.  "I understand that those that develop exceptional abilities naturally can have them start emerging at a rather young age.  For some abilities it is more difficult than others to realize what is going on, or how to deal with them."  She replied quietly.

 

"You seem to have been able to learn to handle them very well.  Claremont will certainly help that more.  As for what you do with them going forward.  That is now your choice, no one else's."

Share this post


Link to post

Lulu smiled as she dabbed at her eyes with a Kleenex from her purse. "Ah know. Ah'm tryin' to...stay positive, focus on the road ahead." She rolled her eyes and waved hands dramatically. "Ah'm just...on a bit of emotional rollercoaster, ah guess. Am mean, ah'm real thankful for everything you and Ms Summers have done for me, no mistake. Hopefully once classes start, ah'll be be too darn busy to feel sorry for myself. Oh, bless your heart, thank you, ma'am!"

 

The sales lady had returned with a wonderful pair of brown booties, and Lulu eagerly dug them out off the box and paper to try them on. Once she had them on, she practically lept to her feet in excitement. "Oh, aren't they just?"

Edited by Heritage

Share this post


Link to post

Megan

 

"Those are quite cute."  Megan replied in agreement with a wide smile at Lulu's excitement about the boots she had picked out.  While the older woman knew the teenager would not be able to distract herself from thinking about her past and being away from home all the time, it was nice to see she was able to at least a little while.  As for the longer term, Megan fully intended to do all she could to help Lulu along on moving beyond her past, and knew that Claremont had lots of resources to help with that as well.

 

After purchasing the booties, Megan and Lulu stopped at a few more stores, primarily to pick up some things for Lawrence, before heading back to the parking garage to begin the trip back to North Bay, talking about some options along the way where they could stop to pick up dinner to take back home. 

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×